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  • Writer's picturePreetam Koilpillai

We are a year old!

A musician in Udaipur, Rajasthan
A still from our first project - Udaipur, Rajasthan

Copac Media is now a year old. More or less.

I think it was June, July? Well, about a year ago, Aravinda - my partner in life and work - and I started Copac Media. Because we thought: a) It was time we became our own bosses. b) We thought it was time we tried to work together (despite all the advice to the contrary from well-meaning folks we know). So we took the plunge. We got all the paperwork out of the way (none of which I fully understand but I do know we are a registered LLP), and embarked on our first film project. It was wonderful. Traveling around the country, meeting people and seeing places I never would have otherwise, discovering the joys of a deep-fried roadside breakfast in Rajasthan to being incredibly moved by the offer of fruit from the hands of a tribal man in the Nilgiris, who said it had fallen to the ground near the temple and so it was precious. We made a client happy and started having conversations with a bunch of other people. We shot more things, Aravinda did a book and started writing a column for the paper, work was lining up, looking good and the future seemed promising. And then the pandemic hit. At first, I have to admit, the lockdown wasn’t too difficult to handle. On the professional front I had just finished shooting a project and we were anyway scheduled to go into an extended period of post-production. Aravinda had enough writing on her hands to keep her busy. And on the social front, we didn’t go out much anyways. It was hardly a sacrifice to stay home. But as time wore on, things started changing. Around us people were being affected in unimaginable ways, lives and livelihoods were being lost. The pandemic was beginning to hit closer to home, a neighbour and friend died from the virus, our street was blockaded, shops were shut. We still had work and that kept us busy, but we wondered for how long. We had let go of employment to start and run our own business. Had we made a mistake? But how were we supposed to know what was going to happen, it had seemed like the best of times. And yet, it was beginning to look like the worst of times. But then, bit by bit, small but interesting things started happening. Our offline conversations became online conversations. We started having conversations with people not just in India but in different parts of the world. And the nature of what we were doing, or what we were offering to do, started changing. Aravinda and I have spent the last 20-odd years in our respective professions. She has been writing, and through her experience with a variety of individuals and organisations her writing has extended itself to marketing, content strategy and branding. My experience is from work in the performing arts - music and theatre - leading up to filmmaking. And a few brief stints as manual labour for an event management company, an advertising executive and secretary to my doctor aunt with whom my primary responsibility was to hold screaming babies while they were being vaccinated. In our careers we have both done and taught ourselves to do a variety of jobs. And in the process, we have managed to pick up more than a single skill. The conversations we started having were all heading in this direction, where it wasn’t just about the detail of work but of the scope of one’s ability and the versatility that we could bring to the table. And in a scenario like this, and, I imagine, for the foreseeable future, the more-than-a- single-skill worker is going to have the advantage. If nothing else, the pandemic has laid bare our vulnerability, our dependence on others for work and life. The need to augment existing skills has become critical. As a result of these new conversations and changed circumstances, the scope of what Copac does is changing. We have resumed shooting but we’re doing it remotely. This is leading to fascinating collaborations. We are working with regular people on the ground (since crews still can’t travel) who have their own cameras and not much else, and it’s a little like being on a journey of discovery. You have no idea what’s going to happen next. I find myself doing more editing, working with original footage, stock footage, found footage, cell phone videos and everything that the wonderful worldwide web has to offer. While doing the occasional voice-over late at night in the bathroom, washing dishes, cleaning, making lego, teaching piano and attempting to learn how to jump rope with our 8-year-old. Aravinda continues to write her column and contribute to international publications on tea, while working on three books, strategising for us and others, driving social content for a new client, feeding the family and dreaming about room service in a hotel with clean sheets. All of us are doing so many things already. And working from home is not easy. Working from office is, in many ways, a lot easier. But as the virus continues to rage we are going to have to do more, and differently. I hope we will all have the courage and fortitude to keep our heads down and push on. A new world, requiring an expanded set of skills and a new way of working, beckons. Even though I sometimes have nightmares of grown-up babies roaming the streets,

trying to hunt me down, seeking revenge for that first vaccination. May that never be the consequence of our actions.


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